Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Chase on the Trace: Chickasaw Trace Trail 15K Race Report

I ran a fun race in Columbia, TN this morning.  The Columbia Cycling Club put on a trail race at the Chickasaw Trace Park on a 9-mile mountain bike trail.  Just after the trail run, they held a 9-mile mountain bike race on the same trail.  This race was a BARGAIN!  Only $28!  That is rare, my friends.

My alarm went off at the lovely hour of 4:25 a.m., and I met up with my friend Andrea at 5:30 a.m. to hit the road.  We had a smooth trip about 1 hour and 40 minutes south.  

The park was pretty, and check in went smoothly.  We got our bibs (no chip timing) and shirts and went back to the car for a few minutes.   The shirt is nice.  There is something about a hill on there???  Wait, there are hills?  :-)

We discussed our strategy for the day.  There was some confusion about what pace we must maintain on the trail to avoid the sweeper.  Our race was to start at 8:00 a.m.  Apparently, since the bike race started at 10:30, the cut off was somewhere less than 2:30.  We were confident we could finish under 2:30, but we didn't know if the cut off was actually 2:15 or even 2 hours.  We probably could have asked an organizer.  We just knew the event page specified NO WALKERS and that all runners must be off the course before 10:30.  

This was a small event, and looking around before the start, we noticed most of the field looked fit.  Very fit.  I saw at least three Ironman hats and shirts and probably less than 100 runners.  There were many more men than women.  We knew we definitely didn't want to be last!  I ran an 18-miler last weekend, and I was afraid fatigue would slow me down.  We knew there would be at least one biggish hill (according to the shirt).  I had found this elevation profile online a few days earlier.  It doesn't show the full 9 miles, but some of them.

Andrea and I take a VERY laid back approach to trail running generally.  We just relax and enjoy nature and take pictures and chat.  It is very relaxing.  Not today. 

Today, we were all business once the horn sounded.  We ran scared.  We rarely clock 11-minute miles on technical trails, but today we clocked the first three miles in the 11's.  We did notice early on that our frequent trail runs gave us an advantage on the muddy and steep uphills and downhills.  We weren't afraid of them, while many (new trail runners maybe?) would come to a full stop to try to navigate the least-muddy path and hike very carefully down.  We passed a few people in the first few miles on muddy slopes.  We've learned that sometimes, you just have to run right through the mud, and it's actually pretty fun!  I know I used to do the same thing.  I guess after you fall on trails a few times, the thought of it is less daunting!

The trails were just starting to green up--we've had a LONG winter here in Tennessee.  Pictures from past races show more spring foilage than we had today.  These are two I borrowed from a blog called Ravine-ravings courtesy of Google Images.  I didn't want to pause long enough to take any!
This was a neat area where we ran through bamboo.
We were able to estimate how many people were behind us at any given time due to many, many switchbacks.  At one time, we thought there were only three behind us, but there were several others farther back on the trail.  But thinking we were 3rd from last??  That kept us running, actually racing, rather than relaxing.  (They do call it a "race," I suppose.)  I was struggling though.  My breathing and heart rate were higher than normal for the pace I was running.  My legs definitely had some residual fatigue in them.  The good part was we kept picking off one runner at a time.  It felt like we were chasing them down. We'd see one up ahead and reel her in.  By mile five or six, we could breathe a little sigh of relief knowing there were 6-8 behind us at least! (There were many more than that, we just couldn't see them!) We ran a steady, but pushing, pace.  We were chasing runners and the sweeper (on a mountain bike) was chasing all of us!  

The trail was overall very runnable.  It was rocky in places, very muddy, and somewhat narrow in places where it went through a grassy field (to fit mountain bike tires better than human size 10.5's)

We still didn't know the time cut off, but we estimated we'd finish the 9-mile trail race around 2:00-2:05 if the "big hill" wasn't too bad.  There were many inclines and declines throughout, but The Dump Hill was the one pictured on the shirt.  We found it in mile 6 or 7.  It was a tough climb. It was a lung and leg burner, but not all that long or all that steep, AND there was only ONE of it, so that helped.  (Tick Ridge had about 6-8 of those!)   We train regularly at two local trails that have a similar hill to this one and on a long road hill, so it didn't seem all that bad.

Around mile 8, I picked up the pace to try to finish under two hours.  My breathing was ragged (it had strangely been all day-- I think it's called "racing"), but I pushed with what little I had on those miles.  I'm not a fast road or trail runner.  Slow and steady is actually my favorite pace.  

Much of the last .25 was uphill in the grass heading back to the start.  That was tough.  I felt a little nauseated. It had gotten really warm (40 at the start, 62 at the finish), and I was ready to be done!  I crossed the line in 1:56, according to my Garmin, about a 12:56 pace.  I was 7th  in the 40-49 year old age group out of 19.  We had the biggest female age group by far!  Other female age groups only had 2-5 runners.  The overall winning female (30-39) ran a 9:00 minute pace for comparison!  She killed it, and I think it was her first trail race.  

Sooo...... Andrea and I finished.  We weren't last (by a long shot!).  We made the cut off. We got really muddy.  We had an adventure.   Road trip 5:30 a.m. adventures are the best.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Name is Donna and I'm a Running Addict

For about a year, my right IT band has been bothering me after long runs.  It actually started on January 1, 2014.

There is a bursa (fluid-filled sac) at Gerdy's Tubercle (the spot where the IT band inserts on the outside of the knee) that cushions the IT band as it moves back and forth over the lateral condoyle (the bony protrusion on the outside of the knee) during running. 

My bursa had gotten inflamed and angry and swollen (bursitis). That caused my IT band to have a harder time sliding across it, leading to pain and swelling at the insertion-- the formal name is IT band friction syndrome.  It caused a burning pain after long runs and sometimes a stabbing pain during long runs.

I saw a doctor about it last April, and he just told me to reduce mileage, run on soft surfaces, take high doses of anti-inflammatory, and to go to physical therapy because IT band issues often come from weakness in the hip or glute on the opposite side.  I did all those things, including running trails almost exclusively for 7 or 8 months, and it did get a bit better for a while. I also foam rolled, had deep tissue massages, and switched to different shoes.  While it improved, it never fully went away.  The area around Gerdy's was just less swollen and sore some of the time.  

Lately, it had gotten worse.  I've been training on asphalt primarily for an upcoming road marathon.  My long runs have climbed to 16 miles.  The combination left that bursa angry and swollen again.  I'll be honest.  I was starting to feel defeated.  

You runners know what I'm talking about.  Fighting with an injury for a year+ is not fun. In the grand scheme of life, no, it's not terrible, but when you love something and it gives you great pleasure, it is difficult to have it become rather miserable. 

So, I sought a second opinion.  Finally.  A dear friend recommended an orthopedic doc, and I saw him on Wednesday.  I told him all of this, and he said a cortisone shot into the bursa could dry up all that extra "goo" (his word, not mine!) in there.  The problem was the swollen bursa, not the IT band itself.  He understood I had done all the "right things" already, but this stubborn bursitis wouldn't budge.  I had done my research beforehand, so I knew this was probably my next and best option based on my Internet self-diagnosis. :-) 

This new doc is a doctor who UNDERSTANDS runners. He asked me about my goals, in addition to my history.  He "gets it."  He told me that treating runners is akin to treating drug addicts.  He could tell the runner to stop, but he knows the runner won't. Can't. It's more than a hobby.  It's more than exercise.  It's a way of life for us.  It's definitely an addiction.  

He left the room to get the shot. I had been told how much it would hurt, but the pain still caught me a bit off guard. The needle was large, and the place he inserted it was already very sore.  Three times in my life, I've had a similar sensation---when I had the epidural for my children's births while having back labor.  There is such a strange feeling when a needle is inserted into a space it clearly does not belong!!  A shot in the glute or arm is no big deal for me.  You can take my blood all day long, and I hardly notice.  But insert a needle.... in my SORE KNEE??? I almost came off the table.  I cringed and yelled (something... not sure what!) and unintentionally jerked my knee a bit. He wiggled it around some while in there "to break up the goo." It left a small hole and a quarter-sized bruise.

I admit, afterwards, I felt a bit dirty. Good grief.  Am I that much of an addict?  Do I insist upon running at all costs???   Is this wise?  Should I just run short distances, maybe become a casual "jogger"?  Is too much of a good thing a bad thing?   I'll acknowledge that I have a bit of an addictive personality.  I've been somewhat of a Type A Overachiever most of my life.  When I found running at age 36, it was as if I was discovering a whole new world and a whole new side of myself.  It was love.  Passion.  

I'm a driven runner.  I set goals. I'm always pushing to run farther or faster.  I probably make it harder than it has to be.  I love sharing this passion with others through my coaching.  But am I addicted?

Well, 8/10 would suggest YES.  Can someone buy me this mug?  I'll fill in the name later.

Is this a bad thing?  I could be addicted to meth or crack or or alcohol or porn or sex.  I think I chose pretty well.   

I'm kidding.  


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It Was a Good Day to Be a Billy Goat: Tick Ridge Trek 25K Race Report

I ran the Tick Ridge Trek trail 25K last weekend in Elkton, Tennessee.  I didn't really have any expectations going in. I was just doing the race for fun, and the course looked pretty in the pictures from last year.  I needed a long run of 16 miles for my preparation for the Carmel Marathon in April, so I was pretty laid back about the whole thing.

A group of us left Clarksville at 4:46 a.m. to head south to Elkton.  That meant a 3:30 a.m. wake up for me, but I felt ok once I woke up and drank two cups of coffee.  We were looking sharp in our Middle TN Trail Runners shirts.

We arrived at the race site--a private farm, and it was several degrees colder than expected!  I was glad I had overdressed slightly and brought a throw-away jacket. 

The race began, and I took off at a moderate pace.  I hadn't planned to run aggressively, so I held back in the beginning.   

Within the first two miles, however, I realized Tick Ridge was not going to be the laid-back, moderately easy run I had expected!   The first climb was LONG and hard and kept going and going. 

I was only in mile two and my quads were burning!  I remember thinking, "Uh oh.  Maybe it's only the first two miles that are this tough."  Around the end of mile 2, I met up with friends briefly.  

They went their way on the 10K course about 2.5 miles in, and I ran the rest of the race alone, just briefly conversing with people occasionally.  

Then the second big climb came at mile 4.5.  I have truly NEVER seen anything like this hill in terms of steepness.  I've run many trail marathons and half marathons and even a 50K, but this hill was insane!  Power hiking it, I had to actually stop to BREATHE half way up.  My legs and lungs were on fire.  All around me, others were stopping, too.  

Up. Down. Up again.  The downs were better than the ups, but still really difficult.  One thing I was happy about though-- on every power hike uphill, I was able to catch and pass those around me.  I may not run fast, but I can hike like a billy goat!  (My trail name is actually Billy Goat.)

The race really had outstanding, ever-changing scenery. We went through fields and forests, over ridges, around ponds,and across streams.  I would say maybe 30-40% was technical.   I love this view from the top of one of the ridges (courtesy of my friend Cheryl):  

After that mile 4.5 hill, I got serious about the race.  I was still in shock that it was so different than I expected.  This needed to happen:  

I put my head down and I just ran.  When I couldn't run, I hiked as hard and as fast as I could.  I took chances on downhills (not my strength), I hurried through aid stations, and I kept moving at all costs.  My legs were TIRED, but I'd tell them to keep running.  I allowed myself to hike the steepest hills, but I ran the smaller ones.  I remember saying to myself, "Just run easy in energy-saver mode" to keep myself running when I wanted to hike.  After mile 10 (which absolutely felt like mile 20), I knew I had an hour or more left in the race. I began to really focus on just running the mile I was in.  I turned on my music, and it was a big help.  Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite" was the first song that   came on, and at that point, I felt like I'd been rocking and rolling all night!  Later, in mile 15, "Running on Empty" came on.  I truly was!  

Though the race was unexpectedly harder than anticipated, I just did what needed to be done, and I daresay I enjoyed it!  Sometime in mile 11 or 12, I took time to reflect on why it is that I choose to do hard things.  What is it in me that feels the need to push myself to my physical limits?  I thought about how I had CHOSEN to be there--to run through deep mud and hop across at least five streams, to trip my way down hills and fight my way up ridiculously steep leg and lung burning ones.  My choice. My way of testing myself.  My way of seeing what I'm made of.  My way of connecting with nature and my friends.  Then I took time to pray for those who are going through hard things they didn't choose.

I was still smiling when I nearly ran over this photographer at mile 13.  He was kneeling beside the narrow trail on a downhill.  

Those last miles were tough, but I stayed determined and in good spirits.  The hill at mile 13 was the only other time I had to interrupt my hike to rest for 3 or 4 seconds half way up the hill. I was ready to be finished, so I kept pushing. I crossed the finish line right as my Garmin beeped for 16 miles.   3 hours and 36 minutes.  

I almost cried at the finish.   Not because it was hard.  Because I was proud.  

It is definitely the toughest race course I've completed.  The Flying Monkey Marathon is the only one that comes to mind in an even close comparison, and I really think this was more difficult.  I'm so glad I did it!  I'll be a tougher runner for it.  :-)  

Fuel:  Water, 2 Huma Chia gels (mango and apple cinnamon), and Tailwind Raspberry Buzz.  Oh, and a few sips of Coke at an aid station with a handful of potato chips.    

Friday, January 30, 2015

Holy Hills and Loose Dogs Plus a Bull or Two: Encounters on the Long Run

Last weekend, I needed 15 miles on my long run.  The training plan called for it.  I'd run 13.1 and 14 the two weeks prior.  It was TIME.  For me, 15 miles is a turning point in training.  It is the turn into serious running territory.  A 15-mile run can go a lot of ways.  Not all of them are good!

It turned into a frustrating run of slow and snow and cold, and I pulled the plug at 11.5 miles.  This week, I knew I HAD to get it in.

I'm also coaching 17 people for a spring half marathon.  It's a sweet gig, and I enjoy helping these runners on their journey to 13.1.  Last weekend was actually their first group run of five miles, and thank goodness no one fell on the snowy, slippery greenway.  This weekend, they are running six hilly miles in my favorite running neighborhood.  I knew it would be tough to run six with them and have a break to coach them in stretching, etc, and then have to continue for nine more on my own, so I found a friend who wanted to do a long run today while the kids were at school.

It got interesting when my littlest also told me last night that she has awards day at 12 at school. That gave me a fairly small window to get in 15 miles and get presentable and back to school!

I dropped her off at school the minute it opened and rushed back home to head out.  I had to run at least 3 miles before my friend arrived because she didn't need a run quite as long as mine.  I wound up with a relaxed 3.5 miles in my neighborhood.  Well, relaxed might be the wrong word. There is one dog in my neighborhood that scares me--a large, muscular German Shepherd with an underground electric fence, who never lets me pass without barking at me loudly (and angrily?).  I had to pass her twice.  Shiver.  I always worry that her electric shock collar will have a dead battery....

I realized within the first three miles that my legs were still a bit tired from 5 miles of speedwork on Tuesday and a 7-mile trail run on Wednesday.

My friend arrived, and we headed out.  We passed scary dog again, and she is much less scary with a buddy.  We headed for some country roads near my house.  Country roads = hills and loose dogs, apparently.  We were running happily along when a dog ran out at us. This one didn't stop at the edge of the yard like the one with the invisible fence.  He came all the way into the road and had no collar.  I just instinctively said, "No! Go home!"  And he stopped.  He crouched down and looked like he felt guilty.  We kept moving, but I picked up a large stick to carry.  We went down a side road and knew we'd have to face him again.

We ran on a pretty country road for a while, up and down big hills.  At another house, two dogs were VERY excited to see us.  They came out as a pair, running as fast as they could toward us.  We froze, but their whole bodies were pretty much wagging.  They crossed the road to us, but they just wanted to say hi.  I petted them for a minute, and they were happy.

We continued.  We ran and ran and ran.  Then we checked our mileage.  Five miles???  We've only been five miles?  Whaaaaat?

You know those runs that seem endless?  Turns out my friend was also pretty tired, and we were both struggling a bit.  We walked the big hills and just kept making forward progress.  We did an out and back, so we got to stop and pet the friendly dogs again (well, just me) and deal with the less-friendly loose dog (he was totally crouched in a ditch waiting for us).   We took a different country road for a mile or so and saw two huge bulls looking at us as we ran toward them.  Then we noticed the gate was open to their pen. Wide open.  There was a grate at the bottom of that apparently animals don't like to walk across though, but that was the only thing between us and them.   I freaked out a little and turned back.  I don't really have experience with bulls and grates.  I just know I don't want a bull chasing me.  Country running has its advantages and disadvantages. :-)

We ran back toward my house as best we could.... relentless forward progress.  We got quiet. I turned on my music.  We walked the big hills and the small ones, too.  We finally got back to the house.  I was short two miles, but I had about 22 minutes before I HAD to get into the shower.  Onto the treadmill I climbed.  I finished mile 15 at 11:02 a.m., grabbed a bite to eat, jumped into the shower, and sat down at awards day with 6 minutes to spare.

It was just one of those runs.  My forearm is sore from carrying the big stick, too.  I wonder if it would have worked on the bulls?    :-)

My baby got all A's and B's at the awards day, so I signed her out early from school to take her for some sushi and ice cream!

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Belated New Year's Post: Building a Sturdy Runner

I've been letting my new year's running resolution simmer.  Marinate.  Sink in.  It stemmed from a church service early in the new year.  I paraphrased from a general life application to a more specific running application:

So, this year, I will build a sturdy runner-- one who can run 5K's hard and 50K's gently, one who is equally at home on roads and trails, one who conquers hills and glides across flats, one who is consistent in training and avoids burnout.

I will accomplish this by strength training, training smart, and listening to my body.  The ultimate goal is to run for the rest of my life.  Sturdy.  Strong.  Motivated.  Happy.

I'm carefully building a base.  I just had my one-year anniversary with IT band friction syndrome in my right knee.  It doesn't go away--it flares and it improves in an annoying cycle.  My left knee is a bit better as long as I don't do any lunges.

It's only January.  I've got lots of time.

It's a PROCESS that will take patience.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running--The Year in Review

It's time for my annual running year in review.  I'm keeping a record of my running life in this blog for when I'm old and can't remember.  It's like my journal.

2014 Running Goals WERE--
1.  To run in new races and places.  (Done and Done!  Chuckanut Mountain in Washington State was the most awesome one.)
2.  To run happy and healthy. (Mostly.)
3.  To tackle some long distances. (Yep.  26.2 X 4 plus two ultras--a 41-miler and a trail 50K.) 
4.  To use running for stress relief and renewal.  (For the most part.)
5.  To enjoy each and every race, even when it's hard, even when I'm slow and to have gratitude for running.  (Not at the Southern TN Power Classic marathon.  Misery after mile 11. Personal worst!)

Overall, I'd say this was a more successful year than 2013, at least as far as my attitude toward running as I come to the close of the year.  I'm definitely running slower, but I've run happier.

The races:

January--No races!  

February-- Dry Creek Marathon.  This was a really fun race with my friend Andrea in a hunting preserve.  It was the most beautiful February day--blue skies and 65 degrees.  The course was a little hillier than expected, but I enjoyed running the first half with Andrea and battling it out on my own in the second half.  One of two trail/unpaved marathons this year.

March--  LBL 23K Trail Race.  This was definitely an adventure.  Grand Rivers, KY had received a 7-inch snowfall earlier that week that just wouldn't budge.   I ran on hard packed snow, waded through slush, and skated on icy pavement.  I was lucky to only fall over once.  The whole time, I focused on being careful and the novelty of running on snow for the first time.  My feet were numb by mile 10 or 11!   I finished this race much stronger than the year before.

Two weeks later--- Greenway Marathon.  This was another hilly race.  I ran a little faster than planned in the first half and paid the price in the second half.  It was in this race that I realized the truth of marathons---once you get to mile 20, you know you are going to be ok.  I struggled in 14-20, but passing that mile 20 marker let me know I'd survive.  My IT Band was not my friend that day.  After this race, I took some time off to rest/recover the IT Band.  One of two road/pavement marathons this year.

April--  Oak Barrel Half Marathon.  I ran this with my husband.  I tried to pace him conservatively, but really 2:16 was about all I had that day.  He had a great race and  could have run faster.  My legs were tired from the above races, as all of these were spaced about two weeks apart.

May-- Viola Valley Half Marathon.  This was another hilly (I see a theme here!) race in the countryside near Manchester, TN.   I ran a total of 3 races within an hour of Manchester (where my inlaws live) this year.   I had an ok race.  I walked on some of the hills.  I can't say I ran strong, but I didn't run terribly, either.

Then my SUMMER OF RUNNING, the best part of my year! 

June-- Run Under the Stars.  Despite some blister issues, I got a personal long of 41 miles!   I had the BEST miles between 30 and 40.   I truly felt like an ultramarathoner. 

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon.  My 2nd of two trail marathons.  I PR'd by 26 minutes over my time the year before.  I paced smart and finished strong.  It was HOT, and I got dizzy/woozy the last 2 or 3 miles.  The 2.5 hour drive home was LONG after that.

July-- Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon.  My destination race of the year!!!   It was a gorgeous course spent with my close friend Rebecca and high school classmate Stacey.   Our time was slow, but we stopped for pictures often and took our time.  This was my first time to climb a mountain!  It made me realize I want to climb more mountains in my lifetime.  

August-- Wild Thang 9-mile trail run.  The heat got to me.  I felt dizzy and nauseous and my legs didn't work too well.  The one blight on an otherwise great summer!   It fell in the middle of a high mileage month.  I could tell.  August 2014 was my highest mileage month ever.

September-- Stanky Creek Trail 50K.  Another highlight of my year.  I LOVED this race.  I tapered well the first part of September.  This race fell the day after my 44th birthday.  I think I enjoyed every single step, every creek crossing, climbing every muddy embankment!   My first 50K trail race with a strong finish.  Good company on my trip to Memphis and perfect weather, too!

And things started going downhill......

October--  Southern TN Power Classic.  Worst. Race. Ever.  Just three weeks after Stanky Creek, my body was NOT ready for 26.2.  I was ok up until about mile 11 or 12.  Then my race went downhill.... and by that, I mean it continued to go UP and UP and UP more hills.  Every step was painful.  My muscles were tight and sore.  Running simply hurt.  Stomach upset, too. Ugh. Personal worst.  A nice gentleman I met at mile 21 really helped get me to the finish.   I felt like my body was breaking down. It was after this HORRIBLE race, I decided to let the Tunnel Hill 50 miler go.  It was the right decision.  I was very burned out at this point.  

Go Commando Half Marathon.  Two weeks after Power Classic.  I actually had a slow but steady race.  I ran every hill.  I was happy about that.  All of my trainees finished this tough course.  My finish time was 8 minutes slower than last year. Fatigue had compounded in my legs over the last few months-that much was evident.  I knew my body was telling me to back off a bit.  I was relieved to be done with long races for the year.

Halloween Hunt 5- Miler.  I ran this on the week after Go Commando with my husband.  We dressed as "early morning trail runners" (covered in spider webs).  My legs had NADA that day.  I struggled.  I had a few weeks of rest after this one.  I ran just a few miles per week.

November--Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I ran a strong five-mile race!  :-)  I enjoyed it until the last mile and the hills at the end.  My time was slower than I expected, but I hadn't run 10K pace pretty much all year!

Turkey Trot 5K.  I had a GREAT race.  27:16.  How I ran just 17 seconds off my PR, I don't know.  Lucas pacing me the first two miles might have helped.  I maintained pace alone that last mile though!   

December-- No races!

Those are my 15 official races for 2014.  I left out two "unofficial" races I did with friends---both were half-marathons on trails.  One was at Rotary Park with Andrea and the other was at Beaman Park with Middle TN Trail Runners.  We almost got arrested for our unofficial "not a real race but with bibs and medals" and lacking park permission, but it was still a fun day.  

What a GREAT YEAR overall.  BLESSED!!!

One of the greatest blessings just kind of fell together in June.  Middle TN Trail Runners formed and quickly became my local trail running family.  My trail brothers and sisters have given me so much support and encouragement as we have run, tripped, laughed, and face planted together (and nearly got arrested....).  With this group, I went on my first night trail run, another highlight of the year.

I'm happy to have had my running community grow much larger this year with new friends from far and near!   I think when it comes down to it, running is really more about the people you meet and spend time with than anything.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marathon Training Has Begun.... Sort of.

I have had a fun few weeks of running.  Operation Regain Speed has been in full effect.  

On Thanksgiving morning, I ran the Pass the Turkey 5K, a race I helped create, here in my hometown.  I not only passed the (very pregnant) turkey, I was only 17 seconds off my 5K PR from three years ago.  Happiness!!!!

I started out in the middle of the pack, and that forced me to go slower for that first mile.  I think it was around an 8:54 pace.  I ran with a couple of friends in mile 1.  In mile 2, my friend Lucas and I chatted (well, he chatted, I cannot really talk at an 8:40 pace very well) and finished that mile in 8:42.  My legs were feeling great, but my breathing was once again very heavy and ragged.  After mile 2, Lucas jetted ahead to try to catch a friend, and I was on my own.  I thought maybe I would slow down, but I didn't.  At one point, I was running an 8:22 pace.  I backed off a bit.  At 2.77 miles, I was running hard enough to feel nauseous.  Then things got confusing.  Those of us on the course were running blindly.  There were no volunteers or course markers, and we weren't sure where to go.  Some went one way, some went the other.  I saw my friend Ashley take a sharp left turn, and I followed her.  There was probably supposed to be a marker or volunteer there because I finished with exactly 3.11!  My 3rd mile averaged 8:42, and my .11 was 8:25.  I finished in 27:16.  That was a victory for me.  I know I can break 27:00 in 2015.   I'm just happy to see some 8s in my running.  It's been a while. I think I ran only one 8:40 mile in all of 2014 until these last weeks.   Two days later, I ran an 8-mile long run with very tired legs.  Those fast miles took alot out of me! 

I am digging running only 3-4 runs per week, but running harder.  I am still averaging 20-24 miles per week.

I officially started my marathon training plan two weeks ago.  It's a Strength Running 20-week plan.  However, I am tweaking it somewhat.  If I've learned nothing else over the last couple of years, I've learned that a training plan is a mere suggestion, and I know my body BETTER than anyone else possibly could.  For now, I have found a way of running that is making me happy and is getting results. Plus, the marathon isn't until April 18, 2015 anyway, so I'm only sort of following the actual plan.  I may get more serious about it in January.  

My left knee continues to plague me. I started day 1 of the plan with it bothering me.  The plan had me bumping up to 26 miles per week or so the first week, but I didn't.  I ran my runs very easy the first couple of days to help the knee.  For the 5-mile speedwork day, I ran at a park fully on the grass.   It was FUN doing 8 one-minute intervals at 5K pace in the grass.  I had to work harder since the grass was so thick and did not provide energy return.  I managed to run them at around an 8:30 pace though.  Then I eliminated the 3 mile run the day before the 10 mile long run because I didn't want to run that day.  I fast walked two miles on the treadmill on an incline while watching The Tonight Show instead.  Crosstraining!  My first long run on the plan wasn't great last Saturday.  My friend and I were both not feeling great, and we walked a lot.  The plan called for 11, but I thought 10 sounded more reasonable. I didn't keep the long run pace between the prescribed 10 and 11 minute mile pace like I was supposed to.  

This week was supposed to be a repeat of week 1, but I shook it up a bit.   I ran 3.1 on Monday at tempo--a 9:30 pace in a very hilly neighborhood.   I also walked 3 miles that day.  Honestly, I felt bad on Monday, too.  I was about to get discouraged.  I didn't run at all on Tuesday.  Life intervened.  Finally, on Wednesday, I went back to the same park where I'd done the grassy intervals.  This time, I ran on the pavement, but still did 6 of the 1-minute intervals in the grass.  Running in the grass is just FUN!  I still kept the intervals around an 8:30 pace, and I enjoyed the run.  On Thursday, I did strength training and core.  I didn't run at all.  I had to move my long run to today-Friday- due to work, and  I had a much better 10 miler.  I ran alone in 24-degrees and maintained an average 10:24 pace.  That doesn't sound fast, I know.  However, for a training run, it's fairly fast for me.  I didn't stop once.  Many times, I find myself stopping by the car or jumping into a port o john on a long run.  There was no stopping today.  Actually, I ran the first 7 fairly relaxed and picked up the pace in 1/2 mile intervals in the last 3.  It was neat to remind my body to switch gears in a long run.  I hadn't done that in a while. So, I'm at 19 miles for the week (not counting the walking miles), so I may try to get in 2 or 3 tomorrow before or after work.  

So, I guess it's marathon training---lite.  No stress.  No pressure.  Run what I feel like while maintaining a bit of structure.  Strength train at least twice a week. Add some quality to the long runs. 

I wonder if running every other day is really what my body prefers?  Hmmmm.  In Run Faster by Brad Hudson, that's what he suggests for masters runners. He says after 40, our muscles lose their elasticity and ability to recover.    I'm so married to mileage though....  It would be a big switch.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shifting Gears and Farm Bureau 10K Race Report

I've had a lot of fun this month.  I'm thankful I gave my body and mind a break from marathon and ultra training.  I've run with renewed excitement and determination for the most part on the track at the local college, on roads, on trails, and just tried to adapt to cold-weather running again.

I feel like I've turned a corner.  

The mental burnout is gone.

The chronically tired legs are gone.  

The stuck-in-slow-pace mode is gone.  

I just needed to wake back up.  In hindsight, I see many failings of my training in the past year.  One area that I neglected was speed, especially threshold runs.  I simply did almost no running at my 5K or 10K pace.  Another area I neglected was strength training.  I didn't really train my core, my hips, my glutes, or my hamstrings on a regular basis.  However, I ran two ultramarathons, four marathons, and five half-marathons, so there's that.  :-)  I'm just ready to shift gears now.  

Reading the book (or devouring it is more like it) Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach was so eye-opening!  I see areas in which I am strong (endurance) and areas in which I am weak (strength and speed).  I know what to do in my future training to correct these!  It is THE BEST training book I've ever read.

So, for the past three or four weeks, I've trained differently.  I started doing more strength training.  I ran a 5K time trial on my own in 27:37, which is only 37 seconds off my fastest 5K of three years ago.  I was surprised at that one! I am relieved the leg pain and fatigue when I run are both gone. There were a few weeks between the most recent ultra and the marathon and the half marathon in which runs simply HURT.  

My goal has been to maintain 20 miles per week, and I have. I think that's reasonable.  I can still enter into marathon training for my April marathon with a decent base.  It's just been nice to not stress about the miles.

The one dark spot in an otherwise happy running month has been my left knee.  Patellar tendonitis has flared up.  I used to struggle with it in that knee when I first started running.  I was doing a single-legged squat one day three weeks ago, and a pain just ripped through that knee.  At first it only hurt during single leg squats and lunges.  Then it occasionally hurt during runs.  Then it started  hurting going up and down stairs.  So, I stopped doing squats and lunges.  I'm making sure to warm up well before runs, and I'm aware of it, but the pain is only at maybe a 1.  I'm hoping it just passes as it did before.  I ran through it then, and I'm running through it now. (We runners are like that.)  It got worse for a little while, but now it's holding steady and some days, I don't feel it at all.  When it flares up, I try not to feel disappointed or frustrated, but sometimes I fail and a dark cloud descends on my day. (We runners are like that, too.)  My husband's left knee is weirdly doing the same thing.  Sympathy pains, I guess....

On Saturday, I ran my first 10K race in almost two years.  Since I had run the 3.1 mile time trial at about an 8:54 pace, I figured I would be able to run at or close to a 9:30-9:40 pace.  I also knew that I needed a 9:39 pace or better to come in under one hour.  Running 6.2 miles at a 9:39 pace seemed doable.  

About two weeks before the race, read a couple of articles about the body/brain connection.  They advised that we should run more often without a watch, just listening to the signals our body is sending us, also known as "running naked."  (Regular Google it. Don't Google image it.  Just. Don't.)

Where was I?

Then Coach Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running sent a "success story" article in which he advised a client to get rid of her watch and run by feel.  Running by feel only, she was able to run faster than ever before and ran a half marathon PR!  The watch had been holding her back.

So, I figured I'd try it in the Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I purposefully left my Garmin running watch on the kitchen counter.  I just planned to run hard, but not too hard and see where it got me!

My friend Andrea and I left for Springfield around 8:30 that morning for the 10:00 a.m. start.  We met up with some friends from Clarksville who are also members of the Middle TN Trail Runners club we are a part of.  We dressed festively in honor of the event.  This is my friend Cheryl, Andrea, and me.

Andrea and I did some dynamic warm up stretches (as recommended on Strength Running) and ran about 1/2-3/4 mile warm up.  Without my watch, I have no idea how far it was!  We realized we were only 4 minutes from race time while in the middle of our warm up jog, so we hurried back to the starting line.  Everyone was already lined up!  We found a spot near Cheryl and our friend Jeffrey, and then another runner and I recognized one another from Facebook and introduced ourselves.  It's funny when that happens! 

We started, and I looked down at my empty wrist in an attempt to hit the start button.  Then I smiled.  :-) 

 The start was a downhill.  I tried to hold back and run a pace that felt natural.  I tried to tune into that brain/body connection.  But I'm pretty sure I don't have one.  

Andrea said later that I started out at about a 9:06 pace.  I was aiming for about 9:30-9:40 pace.   But my pace felt right.  My legs felt GREAT. I estimated I was running about a 9:30 pace, 9:15 at the fastest.  Something was wrong with my breathing though.  It was much too rough for a 9:30 pace.  I acknowledged this and tried to slow down.  It was my body sending me a SIGNAL!   But my breathing (and likely my pace) stayed pretty much the same.  

I decided to distract myself.  I picked a lady up ahead who looked like she might be in my age group and made it my goal to pass her.  
In mile two, I ran on her shoulder for a while.  Drafting is not something I'm particularly good at.  We almost tangled up a couple of times trying to run the tangents on the curvy greenway path.  Finally, I dropped her on a hill. ("Oh my gosh, I have just officially won the imaginary race between this lady and me!! And on a HILL!!!")  That made me feel very happy.  I've been doing hill sprints and strength training, and I can actually tell a difference. 

So, I picked out two other ladies to race.  Ummm......
One was younger than me most likely, but one was clearly in that 40-44 age group.  I can spot us!  I was mostly focused on my age competitor. She was shorter than me, sort of muscular, and was running strong and consistently.  I was careful not to let them pull ahead and maintained an even distance behind them.  We got to the 3.1 mile turnaround, and the ladies I was chasing both slowed to walk through the water stop.  Without trying, I zipped past them.  I drank a sip on the go and kept moving. Then almost immediately the shorter lady passed me back!  Oh, it was ON. I ran just behind her through about mile 4, waiting to make my move.  I pulled ahead a bit finally, but she sped up, too! I could hear her crunching leaves behind me, so I couldn't let up.  I kept pushing.  My breathing was more ragged than I would have preferred, but I was having FUN.  Two forty-somethings battling it away on the greenway, no chance of winning the actual race, but an age group place is worth fighting for!

Racing is fun.  Running hard is fun.  My legs felt awesome, it was just the breathing holding me back.  I have simply done way too few threshold runs.  My legs can handle the pace, but my breathing hasn't caught up.  My legs seemed to be on automatic pilot. I could barely feel them.  They were just doing what they've been taught to do.  It was pretty cool.

Finally, at mile 5, that too-fast start and the most likely erratic pacing began to catch up to me.  I really feel like I ran a strong race through mile 5.  I had picked off the three people I wanted to pass.  I wasn't passed by anyone in miles 4-5.  Then it sort of came apart.  Fatigue or lactic acid crept into my legs, and I'm sure I slowed.  Without a Garmin, I didn't know how much.  The good thing is my Garmin pace wasn't there taunting me, shaming me, and making me feel defeated.  (We runners are like that.)  A long uphill segment began.  My legs had begun to tire, so I walked twice on the hill.   At the top of the hill, I had no idea how far was left in the race.  That is definitely a drawback to "running naked."  I didn't know if it was time to leave it all out there yet or if another mile remained.  

The end was a series of turns as we wove our way back to Main Street.  I didn't yet have a visual of the clock.  As I thought about what the clock would say, I didn't know if it would say 56 minutes or 59 minutes or 1:03.  I was definitely hoping for under an hour.  I finally got my visual.  It said 1:00:20.   Can you tell my reaction?



It has been a while since I ran 10K's regularly, but coming in under an hour isn't usually a problem.  

I know it's due to the type of training I've been focused on.  I know what to do differently.  I know how to shift gears.  

But I was still a bit disappointed.  Not terribly, but a bit.  It was a good reality check for me though. Running without a Garmin was a gamble, and it may not have paid off.  If I'd been able to see my pace in that first mile or two, I would have gone slower than the 9:06 pace I apparently started at. But running free like that---- I like it.  I just need to teach my body what different paces feel like with the Garmin, so I can run them better without the Garmin.  

I checked the results that were posted on a wall near the timing tent and saw that the top three women in my age group had all finished between 52-54 minutes.   Wow. Big difference from my finish time. What I didn't know was that I was #4.  My official chip time turned out to be 1:00:14, a 9:42 pace.  That made me feel slightly better.  It wasn't that far off.  

My friends Cheryl and Andrea and I enjoyed a fabulous post-race lunch at a little restaurant called The Depot and then headed for Clarksville.

I'm glad I went.  I'm also very thankful for friends who share adventures like this one with me!  

Sometimes I almost wish I could "just run" and not care about paces or races.  But not really.  I'm too goal oriented.  Too driven.  And I love it too much.  Even when it disappoints me, running is still such a HUGE blessing in my life.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rest. Recover. Reboot.

After a busy year of racing, I'm enjoying a period of rest and recovery.

The week after the Go Commando Half Marathon, I ran/walked/hiked about 12 miles total, and I this week I ran/walked/hiked about 20 miles. I want to maintain a base and not lose a ton of fitness, but I want to also give my body some easy weeks to feel rejuvenated.  My husband and I ran a Halloween-themed 5-miler last weekend (slower than my half marathon the week before--legs just had no juice and breathing was off).  But at least we looked sort of cool.  We went as "early morning trail runners."  This is how I feel every time I clear the trails at Rotary Park!

Now, on to the reboot.  Around Tuesday of last week, I discovered two websites that are going to be influential in my running in 2015:  Strength Running and Coach Jay Johnson.  My friend  Lisa used a Strength Running training plan in the past by Coach Jason Fitzgerald with much success, so I decided to check out his website.  Wow, great information in that site! I spent a few hours reading his views on hill sprints, shoes, body-weight strength training (and more!) and took lots of notes.   In several of his posts, he recommends strength training exercises by Coach Jay Johnson, so I checked him out, too.  There is so much great coaching information available online for free! 

After a year focused on running far (and slow, for the most part), I have been looking to take my training in a new direction for next year.  Both Fitzgerald and Johnson subscribe to the motto: log the miles, protect the body.  They are believers in moderately high mileage plus core work as well as general strength and mobility training.
Honestly, I've been slacking in that area.  I taught a strength-training class at the YMCA every Tuesday for several years until last November.  I thought I would do it on my own, but I didn't make the time.  My IT Band issue started in January.  Coincidence?  I've fought with it for 11 months now.  It gets better, then it gets worse.

Coach Jay Johnson recommends an 8-week strength training program done 2-3 times per week.  I completed week 1 this week.  Fitzgerald has a standard core strength program and an IT Band rehab program of exercises, which I also completed once this week.  Both recommend a lunge matrix pre-run, which I utilized as well. I enjoyed doing these and was a little sore.  Both coaches also promote hill sprints and strides to improve running economy as well as build strength.

Log the miles, protect the body.  I think this is the REBOOT I need to be a well-rounded, healthier, faster, happier runner in 2015. 

Runs this week:
Monday-- Great trail run at Rotary with Andrea.  3 miles.  We pushed the pace more than usual and enjoyed the peak of leaf color.  Does it get any better than this?
Tuesday-- Just 1.5 miles in my neighborhood and then 5 strides in POURING rain.  I had to laugh when it started absolutely pouring. I was soaked in about 10 seconds.  Running fast felt good.
Wednesday--  Track work!  The APSU track finally reopened after a year of closure.  I ran 8 X 200 meters at an average 7:12 pace.  The last one was 7:06 pace.  I was happy with that after a year of slow running.  My happy place:
Thursday-Hiked 2.5 miles at Rotary with Andrea.  We were trying to design a 5K course for an upcoming trail race but ran out of trail!
Friday-5.3 mile run with Michelle in Savannah.  Savannah is one of my favorite running neighborhoods.  Michelle and I conquered the huge hill on Carriage Way, which needs to be a part of my regular routine.   We ended with 5 fast strides.  Very enjoyable run.  And faster than my 5-mile race last weekend!
Saturday--3.6 mile run with my husband at one of my favorite places--the Cumberland Bicentennial Trail.  Legs were tired.  

It was a good running week.

I think I finally know where I'm going and have some idea how to get there.  I'm going to build a foundation, brick by brick.  

Upcoming races tentatively:

Nov. 22---  Farm Bureau Holiday 10K. 
February--  Dry Creek Trail Half Marathon (I did the full last year.  Mostly fire roads.)
March 7-- Tom King Half Marathon  (flat and fast and similar to goal race's course)
April 4--Oak Barrel Half Marathon (training run only---going to support Hubby's PR attempt)
April 18-- Carmel Marathon in Indiana  *** GOAL RACE ***

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Run for the Hills!! Go Commando Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday was my 4th time going commando in Clarksville, TN.  Each year, I somehow forget how hilly the course is before the next one.  It's kind of like childbirth.

The Clarksville Visitors' Bureau did a FABULOUS job with this race--from the excellent expo, smooth packet pick up, quick shuttle ride to the start, to the finish line goodies (mini Snickers bars and coffee!).  I highly recommend it.  You might want to train on some hills though.  A lot.

My day started at 4:50 a.m.  I was out the door at 5:55 and made it to the shuttle stop at 6:15.  There were two school buses pulling in at the same time to transport runners to the start.  I quickly grabbed my drop bag and water bottle and jumped in line.  Riding the bus to the start in the darkness made me feel like I was running a big city marathon.

I got to the start and used a pristine port-o-potty.  It's nice to be first.  I wandered around the expo a bit, then posed for pics with some other runners by the statue of Wilma Rudolph.  Here is a group that trained with me from the YMCA and a few of my trail running friends.

After the group pic, disaster struck!  On one last quick trip to the port o john, I dropped my ipod in there!  

Oh well.

It was time to start, and it was so nice not to have a time goal.  I figured I'd run it in 2:15 to 2:20, taking it easy.  I did set another goal, however:  don't walk any of the hills.  I told myself over and over:
And I did!

I started at a conservative pace on the flat section and stayed there.  I had three running buddies at first, but by mile four, we had all separated.  That first hill is a beast, as you can see.  It goes up and up and up.  I just told myself to dig deep and get up it.  Almost all of those around me were walking by half way.  I was 4/5s away from the top when I spotted a man having a massive nose bleed.  He was asking police officers, volunteers, and other runners for a tissue.  He was walking on the side of the course with blood dripping off his chin. Luckily, I always carry emergency TP with me, so I ran over to him. I yelled, "I have tissue! It's kind of sweaty though."  He turned around, reached a bloody hand out for it, and took it.   My son has had massive nose bleeds regularly since he was about 4 years old.  I could relate to his predicament!  So, I paused for a couple of seconds to hand a bleeding man tissue and ran every step of the rest. I think it still counts. 

The downhill side of that massive hill was fun.  I tried to open up my stride and not "put the brakes on" with every step.   

The back side of this course starting around mile 8.5 is really challenging.  It feels kind of like this:  

But it's probably more like this. 
The best part of that section, though, is that you get to see all of your friends!  It's an out-and-back, so you can see the leaders as they are finishing as well as pretty much everyone ahead of and behind you.  I tried to shout a quick "Great job" or other encouragement to as many people as I could.  I caught back up to one of my original pace buddies around mile 9 or so, and we ran together for a while.  By mile 11, my legs were getting tired, and I had to dig deep to make it up the relentless hills without walking, especially the last two big ones. I was counting steps on the last one... 20...25...30...40...just 10 more steps....  Whew!   I made it up ALL the hills! 

I jogged it in to the finish, totally spent.  My finish time was 10 minutes slower than last year on this course (when I also made it up all the hills), but it was still a victory! My goal was attained.  After that marathon fiasco of two weeks ago, I needed this.  I needed to know I could run up big hills.  I needed to know I could run 13 miles nonstop (other than walking 3 or 4 steps at two aid stations to drink).  It was a GOOD DAY.   

All of the people I trained for the race finished as well.  I was able to see each one of them and share in their victories!  This is a really tough course for your first half marathon.  Or your 25th!  But hard things are worth doing.